Victorians and Their Animals: Beast on a Leash, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Victorians and Their Animals

Beast on a Leash, 1st Edition

Edited by Brenda Ayres


212 pages

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pub: 2018-12-04
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Victorians and Their Animals: Beast on a Leash investigates the notion that British Victorians did see themselves as a naturally dominant species over other humans and over animals. They were conscientiously, hegemonically determined to rule those beneath them and the animal within themselves, albeit with varying degrees of success and failure. The articles in this collection apply posthumanism and other theories, including queer, postcolonialist, deconstructionist, and Marxist approaches in their exploration of Victorian attitudes toward animals. They study the biopolitical relationships between human and nonhuman animals in several key Victorian literary works. Some of this book’s chapters deal with animal ethics and moral aesthetics. Also being studied is the representation of animals in several Victorian novels as narrative devices to signify class status and gender dynamics, either to iterate socially acceptable mores, to satirize hypocrisy or breach of behavior or to voice social protest. All of the chapters analyze the interdependence of people and animals during the nineteenth century.


"As expected, this collection validates a concern for the inherent value of animals. But the additional inclusion of leashing the beast within ourselves in light of contradictory social impulses adds an interesting and necessary perspective to a collection on Victorian human/nonhuman relationships."

Dr. Randi Pahlau, Malone University, USA

"As people today grapple with issues like their own humanity, their responsibility for the planet, their relationships to other species along with various kinds of reciprocity, how humans have considered these relations in the past is becoming more relevant – and in fact, more urgent to think deeply about. As Ayres explains, the conflicted and conflicting Victorian ideas about animals are valuable as twenty-first-century people consider our fraught relations with the planet today."

Heather Fitzsimmons Frey, York University, Canada

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: Beast on a Leash


1 Gaskell’s Activism and Animal Agency


2 Old and New Beef: Caring for Animals in Household Words


3 George Eliot’s Use of Horses in Measuring the Moral Maturity of Characters in Her Novels


4 Pigs in Great Expectations: Class, Dehumanization, and Marxist Animal Studies


5 Ants, Insects, and Automatons: Classifying Creatures in Hardy's The Return of the Native


6 It’s Raining Cats and Dogs in the Novels of George Eliot


7 A Fine Kettle of Fish: Cultural (and Culinary) Preservation in Anglo-Jewish Ghetto Stories


8 Gendered Metamorphoses in the Natural History Museum and Trans-Animality in Richard Marsh’s The Beetle


9 The "Animality" of Speech and Translation in The Jungle Books


Notes on Contributors


About the Editor

Brenda Ayres teaches English for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and has previously edited several collections of essays. The most recent is Biographical Misrepresentations of British Women Writers: A Hall of Mirrors and the Long Nineteenth Century (2017). Her latest monograph is Betwixt and Between: The Biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft (2017). She published her first article on animals in Victorian literature in The George Eliot–George Henry Lewes Newsletter (1991), titled "Dogs in George Eliot’s Adam Bede." She began collecting information on the subject when she created a panel at the Southern Conference of British Studies in 2000 titled "Animals in Victorian Literature" and presented "The Iconization of Animals in Victorian Culture." Two years later she spoke on "Beast on a Leash: Victorian Dominion over the Animal Kingdom" at the Mid-Atlantic Popular Conference.

About the Series

Perspectives on the Non-Human in Literature and Culture

In recent years, many disciplines within the humanities have become increasingly concerned with non-human actors and entities. The environment, animals, machines, objects, weather, and other non-human beings and things have taken center stage to challenge assumptions about what we have traditionally called "the human." Informed by theoretical approaches like posthumanism, the new materialisms, (including Actor Network Theory, Object-Oriented Ontology, and similar approaches) ecocriticism, and critical animal studies, such scholarship has until now had no separate and identifiable collective home at an academic press. This series will provide that home, publishing work that shares a concern with the non-human in literary and cultural studies. The series invites single-authored books and essay collections that focus primarily on literary texts, but from an interdisciplinary, theoretically-informed perspective; it will include work that crosses geographical and period boundaries. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 19th Century
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Nature